Why do I indulge this expensive hobby?

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Blog entry by dbhost posted 07-29-2009 05:48 PM 5189 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am probably not all that different from many of you, I work in a technical occupation (where I tend to wait on progress indicators a lot), and came back to woodworking some 20 odd years after my last high school wood shop class. The only projects that were done in the interim could best be described as ROUGH carpentry with a circular saw, and cheesy jig saw.

I am also probably very similar in the reasons why I did not indulge woodworking for so many years was a, well let’s be charitable here and say that I was in a less than optimal domestic situation that had been corrected shortly before I dove back in head first more or less.

I ended up with a house, a destructive roomate, and his crazy dog. By the time the roomate and the dog were gone, there were LOTS of repair projects to get underway, and after earlier experiences with contractors I really was not interested in paying too much to get horrid quality workmanship. And something in my brain flashed back, back before lawyers, before ministers, before professors, and bosses, back to a time when the Mullet was considered a good thing, and Daisy Duke was a character on a TV show and not a description of short shorts…

My brain headed straight back, with the help of a pencil box, a skateboard, and an old toolbox, to Mr. Reed’s wood shop class back in Oregon in the mid 1980s. As I held the pencil box I made so many years ago I could recall the feeling of accomplishment, as I buffed the last coat of wax on the thing and turned it in for my grade. I could recall the project and how it felt to take basically junk lumber, and turn it into something useful. I recalled building a hallway coat tree for my parents, and all the good times I had out in the forests with my late uncle cutting and loading up wood for either lumber, or firewood.

It was there, but unlike riding a bicycle, my hands just didn’t quite remember what to do… So off to digging around, and tinkering, a few small projects here and there, and a few more and off I go to start gathering the tools and equipment to stuff in the garage to make a workshop.

I am now at the point where I am building a good many shop porjects, and using those to hone needed skills to actually build stuff for my home and family again. And have actually gotten a couple of those projects done. A pine stool to help my lovely 5’ bride into our oversized pillow topped bed, several toy race cars for a 5th birthday present for a child that would have been my God son (things got funny with the prior domestic situation remember?), a Kitty Condo for the real owner of the house, stripping and refinishing the kitchen cabinets etc…

I did a stupid thing too, I got involved with turning. This while thing is like an addiction, but turning is probably the worst of it. I will chuck up just about any old hunk of wood on the lathe to see what is in there. It’s the crack cocaine of woodworking I swear!

As I go through my projects I build more skills, and end up with useful stuff, but far more importantly, I relieve stress, and to steal some psycho babble, I think I found a “happy place” to hang out. I am nowhere near the skill level of so many of you guys and gals, but I am learning, and improving. And let’s face it, many of you set the bar on skill and quality insanely high, and without divine gifting, I can only hope of approaching the quality of work I see in many of your projects after years of hard work and dedication. Funny I should call it work, because I do this as a change of pace from my day to day work. What a strange world to live in huh?

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

15 comments so far

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3691 days

#1 posted 07-29-2009 05:59 PM

I’m thankful that lathes aren’t cheap. It keeps me away from one more divergent path.

View Joe Watson's profile

Joe Watson

316 posts in 3509 days

#2 posted 07-29-2009 06:19 PM

there is a cheap hobby out there? Every hobby I have is expensive.

-- Got Wood?

View woodworm's profile


14462 posts in 3553 days

#3 posted 07-29-2009 06:23 PM

There were times when I did not do anything, and felt really bored…but thanks God, the smell of wood was enough to give me peace of mind.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View dustyal's profile


1293 posts in 3438 days

#4 posted 07-29-2009 06:49 PM

Uh, I’m retired and just starting out with woodworking as a hobby… My wife truly appreciates my need for some big tools… table saw, planer, jointer, band saw, lathe, etc… but she draws the line as to the space they would need to occupy. The living room and dining room are unused… but she put those off limits…

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 3675 days

#5 posted 07-29-2009 07:21 PM

I started off with the whole ‘Man, woodworking is expensive’ way of thinking. Then by accident, driven to learn about traditional techniques and practices, I learned lots of ways of doing things with few tools, and making your own tools from almost nothing. Things suddenly became a lot cheaper. And somehow more satisfying. That’s why I’m building a human powered lathe, because I can’t afford one. After much learning, I wouldn’t buy a powered lathe now anyway. In the end, I’m not sure that not using all that space and money isn’t a good thing. Even if you do have the space, and the money. And if some tasks involve extra sweat because of it, can you claim you really don’t need the exercise? Even when I was a full time semi-pro athlete I think I could of used some more.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3195 days

#6 posted 07-29-2009 08:41 PM

Okay guys, I hate to bear the bad news for your wallets… It’s not the lathe that is expensive per se, it’s the other stuff that goes WITH the lathe that adds up FAST!.

If you look at my workshop, you will notice that there is a LOT of Harbor Freight in there due to budget and other requirements (close proximity to the vendor etc…). I buy on sale, and add on the 20% off coupon. My HF #34706 lathe was bought on sale at $189.00, take the 20% or $37.80 off that bill and it went home with me for $151.20. While not free, consider that my Benjamin’s Best (Penn State) roughing gouge set (3/4”, 1”, and 2”) was $79.95, the 8pc Benjamin’s Best starter set was something like $65.00, the Versa Chisels (A.K.A. Spindlemaster) $39.95, Bench Grinder (at full price, I paid WAY less) $59.99, alum oxide grinding wheels $40.00, chuck & adapter $69.99 (for a relatively cheap one) and you see this adds up FAST. And I went cheap. Now having said that, EVERYTHING works EXACTLY as expected, and performs well. Can I brag about Sorby tools, no. But I can turn whatever my skills will let me…

Honestly, with the exception of 3 tools, I haven’t bought anything I thought that I shouldn’t have gotten that. Those 3 tools are / were…
- Ryobi BTS-21 table saw. I thought I was getting the replacement for the BT3100, not EVEN in the same class! Not a horrid saw, just not what I wanted.
-Black & Decker Firestorm FS1200RP plunge router. Pieces are falling off of this year and a half old router. Junk isn’t a strong enough word.
-Skil cheapie, sorry I forgot the model, but the $29.00 model from Walmart jig saw. I was in a tight pinch, and needed what a jig saw does. It works, but the blade tends to spit out of it a LOT… I should have spent what it takes to get the Hitachi.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3427 days

#7 posted 07-29-2009 11:14 PM

I’m on the fence about expense. Lots of hobbies can be expensive – take music for one. especially guitars – you “need” to have a bazillion different guitars, amps, pedals, etc. dont even get me started on home recording/studio equipment. WW sure can be pricey, but to echo others, you can do a lot of bang for buck shopping and get by alright with a minimalist setup.

even the lumber itself needn’t be a large expense – and i’m not talking about using pallets either. my latest project used 2 bdft of hardwood (4 if you count restarting from scratch – OOPS;) ) but even that… $20 total? And in terms of skill of design, joinery, and finishing, it was the same as any larger project.

anyway, after some initial investment and bargain hunting and patience, it doesnt need to be astronomical.

View FrankLad's profile


273 posts in 3272 days

#8 posted 07-29-2009 11:28 PM

Will Mego: Well said! A year or so ago I started getting really inspired by some old Roy Underhill episodes, as well as his books, and other books (ie. “Old Ways of Working Wood”).

I searched around antique stores until I found an old froe head that I was able to cut a hickory handle for. Also picked up some old cheap handplanes (including one I modified to be a “scrub” plane, w/ rounded blade)... made a hickory mallet, some dogwood gluts, and a handful of other tools. Very inexpensive.

I’ve seen Roy Underhill’s (and others’) foot-powered / pole lathes. I’ve never turned anything, but it does look like fun!

I can see how fellas that work wood for a living would require commercial equipment for high-volume or faster turnaround… but there is something (at least to me) completely satisfying about working wood by hand. Not just the sweat and muscle, but satisfaction in knowing the tools themselves didn’t cost much, and that it can be a truly inexpensive hobby. (Particularly if you live in an area with occasional wind and thus… downed trees to use.)


-- Frank, Mississippi, Original Bentwood Rings -

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3405 days

#9 posted 07-30-2009 12:31 AM

There is a theory that men are attracted to sports and hobbies that have loads of accesories, golf, skiing, fishing and woodworking. Everyone on this site here has just proven that to be true! Even the hand tool crowd aren,t immune from this, honestly how many handplanes do you really need? The glass case displaying all the router bits at my local pusher (dealer) still has smudges on it from the last time i pressed my nose against it!

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View patron's profile


13600 posts in 3304 days

#10 posted 07-30-2009 12:51 AM

thanks to you all for your dedication ,
weather cheap or expensive ,
hand or power ,
doing is the way .
i have meet many carpenters ,
that don’t know how to work without
power tools ?
have never used a hand saw or a chisel ,
and when they make a mistake ,
just let it ride.
” i can’t get my ( power tool into that corner ) ,
i hope the painter can hide that ” !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Hix's profile


161 posts in 3241 days

#11 posted 07-30-2009 02:03 AM

I enjoyed reading your post. I never took shop in school or been able to take a class so everything has been self taught. Your story reminded me alot of myself. My dovetails are decent but straight lines are always a challenge. Maybe that is why I turn so much? The comment about turning being the crack cocaine of woodworking just about killed me. It is SO true! My kids say it keeps me off the streets.

Whatever your favorite type of woodworking or skill level, it’s all good.

-- ---call me---- Mark

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3195 days

#12 posted 07-30-2009 03:50 AM


I feel sorry for you not having the opportunity to be enriched by shop class. What a vital part of growing up it was!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4363 days

#13 posted 07-30-2009 03:58 AM

Their was a new Lumberjock from Florida who signed in and stated that his wife accuses him of being a member of the Hobby of the Month Club.

I think I’ve been there, stained glass, silk screen printing, plactic creation, But woodworking has been the one that I’ve found to be stable. I’m able to be creative and do things for others. It’s fun to shape and mold items into something useful or decorative or both.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View ericandcandi's profile


152 posts in 3481 days

#14 posted 07-30-2009 04:59 AM

New tablesaw….2000.00. Band saw…..500.00. New router…..250.00…..A place to get away from the nagging wife, PRICELESS

-- ericandcandi in Louisiana- Home of the "LSU Tigers"

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3233 days

#15 posted 07-30-2009 05:07 AM

Yep…I have to whole heartedly agree….although I’ve been around wood pretty much all my life…from rough carpenter – framing and roofing….to installing cabinets….on to my favorite….finish woodworking. I helped my grandfather make furniture when I was 4 or 5 until he died when I was 12 or 13. So although my job is not working out in the field now a days (blame it on the age disease)...I still have my attachment through my hobby…

I don’t count it an expensive hobby…There are so many ways to get the costs down….buying used equipment….factory refubished…etc….I hardly ever buy anything brand new….I watch the sales and check out craigslist and any yard sales that say tools…. (I’ve found some awesome deals there…and some pieces of junk too). I have a lot of friends and associates that know I’m a tool junkie…and let their friends/family know that I am always available to check out some tool(s) for possible acquisition (a nice way of saying sucker).

Good wood is the hardest thing to acquire….I am always on the hunt for a good piece or pieces…and being a Turner has made me doubly addicted to scoring good shi..err wood….I have to agree that Turning is the crack of wood work…once I tried it I was hooked like a trout on a 3 prong hook….I think the DEA should start investigating this problem and possibly adding it to the war on drugs?? I think we should all start looking for a wood intervention? WoodTurners Anonymous – Hi…I’m Reg….and I’m a woodturner…..

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

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